News Highlights – 23 Mar 11

  • No Fly Zone in Libya (1) – Canadian military aircraft joined in a mission against ground targets in Libya on Tuesday, but did not drop their bombs amid concern there might be civilian casualties, military officials said.  Officials said two CF18 aircraft were assigned to attack a unspecified Libya airfield along with other aircraft from the U.S.-led coalition.  “Upon arrival on the scene in the target area, the air crew became aware of a risk (of collateral damage) they deemed as too high,” Major General Tom Lawson, Canada’s Assistant Chief of the Air Staff told reporters.  The Canadian jets returned safely to base …. It was the second mission for Canadian planes in the campaign to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya to halt attacks on rebels and civilians and open the way for humanitarian help. It was the first time they had been assigned to attack a target ….” More from the Canadian Press here, QMI Media here, Postmedia News here, here and the Toronto Star here.
  • No Fly Zone in Libya (2) – Military blogger & observer Bruce Ralston raises interesting points about those French jets blowing up Libyan tanks early on in the fight. “…. It’s hard not to wonder if that attack wasn’t a unilateral, or at least somewhat disjointed-from-the-rest-of-NATO French effort, trusting solely in surprise and speed of action… either that or it was a very deliberate attempt to bait the Libyans into some kind of hasty response, turning on their radars, even scrambling planes, that the still-assembling coalition could take advantage of. Gutsy, either way, though ….”
  • No Fly Zone in Libya (3) – Former senior advisor to Prime Minister Harper and diplomat Derek Burney wonders why we’re doing what we’re doing in Libya. “…. There is every reason to deplore Gadhafi’s conduct and use sanctions, arms embargos and the threat of International Court prosecution to deter him from further outrages against his own people. But why should the onus for military action fall exclusively on the West, especially when the consequences of action – the end game – belie easy analysis. And why Canada? We are already doing much of the heavy-lifting in Afghanistan whereas several NATO allies have taken a pass. Is it because we were snubbed for a Security Council seat and want to re-establish our credentials for “peace-keeping”? Is it because we regard ourselves as an architect of the Responsibility to Protect concept adopted by the UN? If so, where will it lead – to Iran? Zimbabwe? North Korea? There is a long waiting list ….” More from Postmedia News here.
  • No Fly Zone in Libya (4) – Al Jazeera English is maintaining an interesting summary of open source information regarding who’s doing what in/over Libya at Google Docs – worth a look.
  • No Fly Zone in Libya (5) – Good one from the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence on Twitter: “Good job BBC don’t aim cruise missiles — — Naval base is in eastern corner of Tripoli harbour, 3.5km from Green Sq”
  • No Fly Zone in Libya (6) – NATO steps in with help to enforce an arms embargo. “NATO has now decided to launch an operation to enforce the arms embargo against Libya. All Allies are committed to meet their responsibilities under the United Nations resolution to stop the intolerable violence against Libyan civilians. Our top operational commander, Admiral Stavridis, is activating NATO ships and aircraft in the Central Mediterranean. They will conduct operations to monitor, report and, if needed, interdict vessels suspected of carrying illegal arms or mercenaries. This will be done in close coordination with commercial shipping and regional organisations. And we will welcome contributions from NATO partners to our common endeavour ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1) – Defence Minister Peter MacKay on the back-and-forth on cost estimates for the F-35 cranked out by the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO). “Mr. Speaker, the non-partisan, professional DND procurement experts stand by their cost projections. In fact, those costs are based on actual detailed estimates that were calculated from a multinational joint strike fighter program. They were not based on extrapolations that were made from drawing upon historical data of other aircraft from 50 years ago. They were not based on a flawed calculation that included the weight of the aircraft. They did not project out 30 years. They went with the 20 year standard.” Interesting message, but not quite complete.  Look at this footnote on page 10 of the PBO’s report: “Additional Costs include costs for project management, infrastructure, weapons, and a contingency. The PBO has not included these costs in its estimate. In addition, while the PBO operating and support cost is based on a 30-year program life, DND’s operating and support cost is based on a 20-year program life. For purposes of comparability, PBO has increased the DND’s forecast operating and support cost on a pro-rata basis to reflect a 30-year program life.” That means the figures in the PBO report really are comparing apples to apples.  That said, the criticism of the approach taken to figure out costs compared to other jet fighter acquisitions (by the kilogram?) still stands.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2) – A former DND official who signed off on part of the F-35 process has these caveats“One of the main difficulties with the debate regarding the costs of the F-35 is that there are so many definitions of “cost.” For example, there is the “unit recurring flyaway cost”, the “total flyaway cost”, the “procurement cost”, the “acquisition cost”, the “life-cycle cost”, to name just a few. The fact is, only when Canada signs a contract will we know for certain how much money we will spend to buy and to sustain the aircraft we choose …. while it is important to understand the costs of this program, it is even more important to have a public debate on the aircraft requirements and their linkage to the role and mission of our military. To date, this has been lacking.”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3) – A columnist is sharing the new message track that “sending the CF-18’s into Libya proves we need a new F-35 fighter because you never know when we need fighters to help out.” Really?  Silly me – all I take from Canada’s action in Libya is that we need fighters, not that we need these specific fighters.
  • One of the tidbits announced in this week’s federal budget“…. the Government will partner with the Building and Construction Trades Department, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, to support the Helmets to Hardhats program in Canada. This initiative will connect releasing Canadian Forces members and veterans with career opportunities in the construction industry. This will help provide many benefits for our armed services personnel as well as the Canadian economy. Details will be announced in the coming months.” So far, wounded warriors say they’re underwhelmed with this. More from Postmedia News here.
  • The mission in Afghanistan remains U.N. sanctioned for another year.
  • The (Senate’s) Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence today tabled Sovereignty & Security in Canada’s Arctic. The report calls on the Government to make acquisition of new fixed wing search and rescue (SAR) aircraft its top military procurement priority, and to make the procurement timeline public. These new aircraft, in the planning stage since 2004, will replace the Air Force’s aging CC-115 Buffalo and CC-130 Hercules aircraft. The Committee also recommends that the Government move some of its Canadian Forces SAR assets to a central Northern location so that there is always an aircraft on standby to respond quickly to emergencies. At present, Air Force search and rescue aircraft are based in southern Canada, many hours away from emergencies in the Arctic ….” More in a news release here, and from the Canadian Press here.
  • A London, Ontario MP with nice things to say about the Reserves in the House of Commons.
  • Oopsie….“A London mother has appealed directly to Defence Minister Peter MacKay, asking him to investigate how a pardoned sex offender became a cadet instructor at the 27 Air Squadron. “It is incumbent on all of us to ensure that this never happens again,” Rita Lepore said in a letter to MacKay dated Feb. 28, for which she has received no response. She told The Free Press local military and cadet officials downplayed the situation and “I don’t believe they will do anything until their hand is forced to do something.” So Lepore continues to wait for a reply from MacKay, whose department rejected Roger Micks when he applied to be a civilian instructor. Micks, now 50, was pardoned in June 2009 from a 1985 gross indecency conviction involving a 15-year-old boy. A volunteer with 27 Squadron for several years, Micks had been bestowed the “CI” ranking of a civilian instructor — despite the national-defence rejection. His photo appeared with that ranking on the squadron’s website ….”

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